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on the broadcast tonight, the disaster in japan. in the aftermath of the quake and the tsunami, now there's a full scale nuclear scare, and it's deepening. tonight the u.s. is being asked for more help. our team is on the ground and our coverage begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television a special good evening to our viewers out west tonight. we have all the very latest for you on the disaster in japan. it started with a freak of nature, the fifth largest earthquake ever recorded on the planet, but then right then as the rubble settled and the
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buildings stopped swaying, the water came ashore. the tsunami in japan killed thousands. in some parts of some towns, there's no remaining evidence that anyone ever lived there. and now tonight the crisis has taken yet another turn, and we are covering a full-blown nuclear scare in japan. there are 17 nuclear power plants across japan, 54 nuclear reactors, but one plant in particular is in trouble. it's the fukushima plant, and if you've seen the pictures of it over this past weekend, there was one explosion in one building on saturday, another just yesterday and now a third reactor is in trouble at that same facility. japanese authorities are reporting tonight they have heard yet another explosion there within the last few hours. it's an urgent situation. the nuclear danger, the desperate human toll that goes on, and our team is in place to cover it. we will begin with our chief
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science correspondent, robert bazell, on the immediate nuclear danger there. bob, good evening. brian, in what could have been the third explosion in four days, tensions are mounting in the struggle to avert what threatens to become a major disaster. until today, two reactors were in serious trouble. on saturday, there was a hydrogen explosion in one. at 11:00 monday, cameras recorded a similar blast in the second. shortly afterward, the chief cabinet secretary informed the weary and anxious public. a few hours later, officials revealed the cooling had failed at a third reactor, putting it in the same dangerous condition, and the japanese nuclear agency reports there could have been an explosion there within the past few hours. the government and the company that owns the plants said neither of the earlier explosions had harmed heavy steel vessels or the metal and concrete domes that contained the nuclear material.
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the explosions did destroy lightweight structures that enclose the entire reactors. still, evacuations continue, because the danger persists that fuel rods, which have partially melted, could leak out of any of the three vessels, causing a catastrophic release of radiation. both the government and the company say the chance is slight. even a serious critic of japan's nuclear industry says he believes them. >> i think they have to be as honest as they can be, but at the same time they do have to be careful not to panic people. >> reporter: when the earthquake struck, the reactors all automatically shut off the nuclear chain reaction that drives them. but nuclear fuel remains enormously hot. normally electrically powed pumps keep water flowing to cool it. those worked until the tsunami struck, wiping out all emergency generators and batteries. now workers using fire trucks are pumping sea water into all three reactors to try to cool them. the water releases the hydrogen when it hits the metal inside, the cause of the explosions. that water also creates steam, which has to be vented, carrying
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small amounts of radiation. the "uss ronald reagan" was diverted after small amounts of radiation were detected on board and on personnel flying relief helicopters, but the pentagon said it posed little risk to the crew. the big danger would be the release of that fuel into the environment. that danger recedes with every day because the fuel is cooling, but nobody is going to relax until this situation is declared to be completely under control. >> all right, bob, thanks. robert bazell in tokyo tonight. we have more on this nuclear risk. beyond the immediate area in japan, a lot of americans are asking a lot of questions. with us here in our new york studios, fizz kis james acton with the carnegie endowment. first of all, this latest development tonight, i know it's enormously difficult to explain it in lay terms. we haven't had -- this latest explosion has not happened
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within the reactor in chief, but within a containment dome? >> that's right. the explosion in units 1 and 3 that we've heard about the last couple of days took place outside the reactor proper. this explosion has taken place within the outer wall of the reactor but outside of where the fuel itself is stored. and so this crisis has now, unfortunately, taken a turn for the worse because this is the first explosion from within some part of the reactor. >> can you blame americans, especially those on the west coast, those who are watching "nightly news" tonight for asking questions, however outlandish it might seem, over such a vast distance of pacific ocean, what if the worst happens and we have one, two, perhaps as many as three reactors go, if we have a meltdown. are people that far away in any danger? >> i think those fears are very
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understandable. when you look at the wind maps, you see the wind blows from japan to the united states, and it's understandable why there's concern. what i think is important to point out is that as radioactive material, should significant amounts be released, which is not certain, as radioactive material goes across the pacific, it becomes increasingly diluted by the wind. the white house has announced today that according to its models, the radiation wouldn't pose a risk to people in the united states, and i have no reason to doubt that conclusion. >> but locally, of course, it's a different matter and these become tombs in and of themselves, correct? >> that's right. especially with this latest news. the one piece of good news from this very confused situation is that the steel container in which the fuel rods themselves are stored appears to be intact. that's not certain, but the water level within side that hasn't dropped. right now plant officials have said they don't believe that a large scale meltdown is imminent, but nonetheless this
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is still an exceptionally serious situation. >> as you said before the broadcast, in plain english, it can't be good. james acton with carnegie, thank you very much for being with us. now to the enormous hum drama in this disaster. the shortage of basic supplies in the quake zone like food, water, gasoline. for some perspective, japan is about 10% smaller than california, a large percentage of japan felt the effects of the quake but the tsunami damage was worst in the region to the north of tokyo in sendai. lester hold is there heading up our coverage, lester, good evening. >> brian, good evening. you used the term a moment ago "hyperprepared nation." you get the sense if it was just the quake itself japan would have gotten back on its feet but the tsunami seemed to knock it over the edge, over the brink and now over the last 24 hours we've seen the sea giving back the dead, those who were cruelly swept out to sea last friday.
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the destruction extends as far as the eye can see, an almost incomprehensible landscape. emergency workers aided by troops pulling out more bodies today. there are few survivors left to find. japan hasn't seen anything like this since world war ii. friday's tsunami inundated communities shattered just moments before by the most powerful earthquake japan has ever seen. now three days later, more than a thousand bodies have washed ashore. many more are expected. nbc's ian williams saw the devastation firsthand. >> it's hard to imagine but until friday this wasteland was a busy residential neighborhood. they have no idea how many bodies are buried here. >> reporter: for the living a nightmare. millions are without clean water, electricity, adequate first aid or shelter in the mid-march cold. somehow, the japanese sense of order prevails, but the trauma in people's faces is plain to see. hospitals and shelters are
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completely overwhelmed. driving out of tokyo tonight at the height of rush hour, the traffic was amazingly light. we soon discovered why. all the gas stations are closed. at this highway rest stop, all we've seen are convoys of emergency vehicles, all of them heading north. many roads are impassable. train service in many parts of the country is nonexistent. four trains full of passengers are still missing, swallowed up by the tsunami. japan's $5 trillion economy, the third largest in the world, has been staggered by the disaster. insurance losses are estimated at $35 billion and counting. and there is no price on the loss of loved ones. one woman picked through her devastated neighborhood looking for her mother. she notices a photo of one of her neighbors. it's too much for her. it's all flattened, she says. without the houses, i don't even recognize anything.
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there have been rare moments of relief, even joy. a mother reunited with her young daughter. and aid is now pouring in from all corners of the globe, desperately needed, as japan struggles to recover from a blow unlike any it has ever seen. sendai is known as the city of a thousand generations. brian, i think it's fair to say for a long time many generations of families will be sharing the story of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. >> lester holt on the ground in sendai tonight. lester, thanks. of course thousands are missing in japan, and no one wants to assume that missing in this tragedy means presumed dead in all cases. doing anything, though, in the quake zone, finding anyone is so difficult right now because of logistics and communications. there has been some good news amid the tragedy. our colleague, ann curry, is in minamisanriku, which just a few
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days ago looked the way you'd expect a small populated village to look tonight. it's all but gone. ann, good evening to you. >> reporter: good evening to you, brian. it is tuesday morning here at minamisanriku, and this is what is left of it. it is one of the most devastated towns in the hardest hit region of this epic disaster. thousands here still do not know what has happened to their missing loved ones. nbc news obtained this new home video of the tsunami as it struck. you can hear people yelling "hurry, run" to the victims below. as the wave four stories high raged six miles inland in the coastal fishing village of minamisanriku. 10,000 of its 17,000 residents are still missing. this woman, unable to find six members of her family, dissolves the first time she sees what
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happened to her home. her uncles and whole sister's families are missing and she's worried she well never see them again. despite exhaustion, hunger and cold, many others pushed on, trekking miles looking for loved ones. this father and daughter found a missing aunt. somewhere amid the wreckage, there was also an american missing. in san francisco, megan walsh pleaded for help on twitter, saying her sister was last seen there. cannon purdy was described as 25, an english teacher who returned to japan on the day of the quake to see former students graduate from middle school. searching evacuation centers, it was a man who helped us find canon. >> are you canon? >> there she was, stranded without phone or cell service, glad to use our satellite phone to speak to her sister and
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parents for the first time since the disaster. >> i found your sister. here she is. >> oh, my god. >> hi, sis! >> oh, my god, canon. are you okay? >> yeah, i'm totally okay. >> we lost her, but she's okay. >> reporter: she thanks us for helping canon's family, though she herself still waits, heart breaking. we are strong, she says. we will not give up. the strength of two families among thousands being tested. and in the stunning development in this prefecture just hours ago, a 4-month-old baby was found safely with her parents by a japanese soldier, brian. >> ann, can you tell me how on earth are ordinary japanese citizens without the help of nice people from american television networks going to find their loved ones they believe to be missing and not dead and going to put to rest that bothersome notion that
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they're there somewhere? >> reporter: okay, i missed some of what you said, but i understand that you're asking about how people are able to find their loved ones. there are people posting names, and that's begun. they're not posting photographs. i think that's probably because a lot of that has been destroyed. but people are posting names, and there are clear evacuation centers that have been set up. there are people who have been volunteering trying to connect people. but in this particular place, where 17,000 people once lived and 10,000 are missing, it is an overwhelming job, brian. >> all right, ann curry in the town of minamisanriku in japan, just devastated by this tsunami. ann, thanks. we're back with more on the disaster in japan in just a moment, including a look at the inevitable questions about nuclear safety now here in this country.
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we're back with more specifically on this nuclear crisis that has come out of the japan quake. it has a lot of americans wondering about the safety of the nuclear plants and reactors here. more on that tonight from nbc's lisa myers. >> reporter: within hours of these images some u.s. scientists called for an increase in safeguards at the 104 nuclear plants in this country. could what happened in japan happen here? >> yes, i'm afraid it could. unless we learn the lessons of this accident, then i'm afraid that it's only a matter of time before it does. >> reporter: u.s. nuclear plants are built to withstand the worst earthquake expected in their area, plus a margin of safety. this california plant in an earthquake-prone area, diablo
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canyon, is built to withstand a magnitude 7.5 quake. japan's earthquake was a 9.0. >> we do need to consider the possibility of greater magnitude earthquakes than we had previously considered. >> reporter: another concern, reactor design. there are 31 plants in the u.s. similar to those in trouble in japan, designed by general electric, which is a part owner of nbc universal. one example, oyster creek in new jersey, the oldest nuclear plant in the country. about 50 miles from new york city. then there's the issue of backup power. when japan's plants lost electricity, their backup systems also failed, leaving them struggling to cool the core. here the industry maintains that since 9/11, u.s. plants have upgraded systems to cope with power failures. >> we would actually be able to handle the situation much easier than the japanese are facing
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right now. >> reporter: the nuclear industry says it's highly improbable that this could happen here, but experts note that japan didn't think it would happen there either. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. and we're back in a moment with more on this disaster in japan. can ultra thin bladder protection combine comfort and high levels of absorbency? tena brand can. tena provides the first moderate and heavy bladder protection in an ultra thin pad. with super absorbent microbeads dispersed in a thin core, it holds eighteen times its own weight in moisture. plus, unlike some other bladder protection pads, it retains its shape as you move for your comfort. looking for heavy protection from a thin, comfortable pad? switch to tena ultra thins. call 1-877-get-tena today for a free sample. brand power. helping you buy better.
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japan it's not as if the news from the rest of the world has stopped, of course, and in plain english, the crisis in japan might have been the best thing that ever happened to moammar gadhafi and the worst thing for the rebels in libya who were encroaching on him. gadhafi's forces have taken another city close to benghazi and are hoping to break the back of the uprising and the regime is offering amnesty to the rebels who surrender their weapons. bahrain is heating up again. a new effort to suppress anti-government protesters there. at the request of the royal family, a thousand troops from saudi arabia have rolled into bahrain to help crush the rebellion. bahrain is an important u.s. ally. there's a u.s. base there. the white house says those saudi military forces do not constitute an invasion. and the 15th victim died today in an awful bus crash on i-95 here in new york this weekend. the bus was coming back from a casino trip. it was cut open by a sign pole. the driver's actions and
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background are now under investigation. we want to return to the situation in japan now and the fishing port we saw earlier in the broadcast that took the full brunt of the tsunami. the city's hospital was right there on the waterfront and nbc's lee cowan, one of the few reporters who's been able to make his way there. >> reporter: they call it the town that disappeared. all we could find was a shattered footprint at the end of a washed-out road. >> it just doesn't stop. >> reporter: some 17,000 people used to live and fish here. now close to half of them, it's feared, are under the mud. the racing wall of water some 30 feet high was only about a half hour away when the warning went out. at the city's main hospital, that wasn't enough time. the water took everybody, this nurse told us. all the patients. she only survived by getting as
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many patients as high as she could as fast as she could. it's a good thing she was on the upper floors of the hospital, because this is what's left of the lower floors. this is the third floor of that hospital. it looks like what's left of one of the patient wards. nobody in here would have stood a chance. the wave broke high and on one floor after another, the sea poured in. through windows, down corridors and into patients' rooms. terrifying can't begin to describe it. >> they were clearly proud of their hospital. this is a photo album that we found with pictures of what the hospital looked like in far better days. >> reporter: only the fifth floor was left untouched. it was there, though, that we found a makeshift morgue, bodies lined up on the floor in what looked to be the doctors' lounge. as we left, we found evidence that someone else had been here too. a small memorial had been created, perhaps for a patient, maybe a nurse. faces staring back at us from a
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photo, one of the few remaining bits of color in a building draped in black. lee cowan, nbc news, minamisanriku, japan. we're coming back in just a moment with some information for all those who have expressed a desire to help those who need it in japan. desire to help those who need it in japan. our clients to get a . maybe that's why j.d. power and associates ranked us "highest in customer satisfaction in the united states." so, we thought we'd take a little time to celebrate. ♪ ♪ all right, then, back to work helping clients. individual attention from our highly-trained mortgage professionals. is engineered to amaze. a fiber that dissolves completely, is clearly different. benefiber. it's the easy way to get more fiber everyday. that's the beauty of benefiber.
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finally here tonight, we finally here tonight, we'd like to note the fact as we've said so often here before that the generosity of our viewers is astounding. with every crisis we cover, no matter where, no matter when, the questions start coming in to us instantly, how can i give, where do i send money. despite the fact that this crisis has hit a nation that may be the best prepared on the planet, despite the fact japan is home to the world's third largest economy, tonight there are thousands of people with no power, food, water or shelter and so many of them are missing lost souls. these scenes of damage leave us sad and empty and feeling helpless, except for the donations we can make. and so we've put some suggestions on our website for you tonight, we appreciate your generosity. we know the people of japan need help. that is our broadcast for this monday night.
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thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- of course, the japanese have radiation danger and no one is immune. plus, teaching tough lessons. how one bay area community is educating the youth. nbc bay area continues our coverage of the disaster in japan. good evening. we begin with the disaster in japan. it's been four days and the country is still reeling with untold

NBC Nightly News
NBC March 14, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

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TOPIC FREQUENCY Japan 9, U.s. 7, Us 7, Sendai 3, United States 3, Tokyo 3, Omnaris 3, Minamisanriku 3, Benadryl 2, Ann 2, Tena 2, Nbc 2, Acton 2, Lisa Myers 2, Lee Cowan 2, Canon 2, Nexium 2, Centrum 2, California 2, Bahrain 2
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